AJ’s Car of the Day: 1939 GM Futurliner Promotional Vehicle

AJ’s Car of the Day: 1939 GM Futurliner Promotional Vehicle

Car: GM Futurliner

Year: 1939

What makes it special: GM’s Futurliner was part of a group of custom vehicles, styled in the 1940’s by Harley Earl for General Motors, and integral to the company’s “Parade of Progress”: A North American traveling exhibition promoting future cars and technologies. Having earlier used eight custom Streamliners from 1936 to 1940, GM sponsored the Parade of Progress and the Futurliners from 1940 to 1941 and again from 1953 to 1956. Originally manufactured for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Futurliners were later featured in GM’s  promotional caravan travelling a 150-stop route across the United States and Canada. The Futurliners, along with 32 support vehicles, were driven by 50 college graduates, who also staffed the exhibitions along the route.

What made it famous: At 33 feet long, 8 feet wide, more than 11 feet tall, and weighing more than 12 tons, each Futurliner featured heavily stylized art deco, streamlined bodywork, deep red side and white roof paint, large articulated chrome side panels, a military-grade 302 cubic inch GMC straight-six gasoline engine and automatic transmission, whitewall tires and a prominent, high-mounted, centrally located driver command position with a panoramic windshield. Typically arranged at each stop around a large tent and an information kiosk, each Futurliner featured a self-contained stage as well as a prominent deployable light tower, and each vehicle featured a particular subject. The mobile exhibition covered such topics as jet engine technology, agriculture, traffic engineering, stereophonic sound, microwave ovens, television and other innovations. In 1955 a miniature automobile assembly line display named “A Car Is Born” was constructed for one of the Futurliners. A display titled “Our American Crossroads” was also used in 1955.

Why I would want one: They’re huge, mammoth-like vehicles that have amazing style, and let’s face it…if you want to attract everyone at a car show, this is it.

Fun fact: Of the twelve original Futurliners, one was destroyed in a 1956 accident, and nine survive as of 2007. In 2014, Futurliner #10 was nominated for inclusion in the National Historic Vehicle Register.

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